Conferences and Symposia

CIRGE frequently sponsors symposia and conferences with leading scholars on the ethical, legal and social issues related to genetic research, including behavioral and neurogenetic research. These symposia and conferences are open to the public and aim to foster dialogue between academic centers and the community at large.

May 29, 2012 Conference
Informing Reproductive Choice? Prenatal Genetic Testing in the 21st Century

8:30AM - 5:30PM
Paul Brest Hall, Munger Graduate Residence

As new technologies transform prenatal testing from a risky procedure to a mere blood draw, the current trickle of prenatal genetic testing will become a flood. At least two companies have introduced non-invasive tests for Down syndrome and a few other conditions in the United States since last October.   More companies, more accuracy, and more conditions are rapidly coming. Non-invasive prenatal genetic testing (NIPT) raises questions about who will pay for this testing, how it will be regulated, and how to ensure patients' informed consent, as well as vexing social issues involving abortion, disability rights, and eugenics.

On Tuesday, May 29, the Center for Law and the Biosciences and CIRGE will host a broad range of experts - including genetic counselors, ethicists, law professors, and representatives of the NIPT industry, the FDA, and the disability community - to analyze recent developments in the industry, their practical, legal and social implications, and future directions of the prenatal testing revolution.


May 7, 2010 Conference
The Coming Revolution in Prenatal Genetic Testing?
Scientific, Ethical, Social and Policy Responses to
Maternal Serum Cell-Free Fetal DNA Testing

8:00AM - 6:30PM
Stanford Law School, Room 290

Co-sponsored by the Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics (CIRGE) and the Stanford Law School Center for Law and the Biosciences (CLB), this whole day conference will address the potential scientific, ethical, social and policy implications of the novel prenatal genetic testing technique known as maternal serum cell-free fetal DNA testing. This new development allows for genetic testing very early in pregnancy without any procedures more invasive than a blood draw.

Some questions that will be addressed include:

  • What is the science behind maternal serum cell-free fetal DNA testing?
  • How may patients and providers utilize or reject this technique?
  • What considerations may be important for clinical decision-making and insurance coverage involving this novel technique?
  • What is the disability rights perspective on this issue?

Speakers Include:

  • Introduction
    • Hank Greely, JD, Stanford University
  • The Science Panel
    • Stephen Quake, DPhil, Stanford University
    • Michael Snyder, PhD, Stanford University
    • Louanne Hudgins, MD, FACMG, Stanford University
  • Patient and Provider Responses Panel
    • Mary Norton, MD, Stanford University
    • Sharon Terry, MA, Genetic Alliance
    • Kelly Ormond, MS, CGC, Stanford University
  • Public Health and Policy Responses
    • Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, Stanford University
    • Wade Aubry, MD, University of California, San Francisco
    • Alan Fleischman, MD, March of Dimes Foundation
  • Broader Social Responses Panel
    • Audrey Chapman, PhD, MDiv, STM, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
    • Jessica Lehman, Community Resources for Independent Living and Justice for All Action Network Organizing Workgroup
    • Jaime King, JD, PhD, UC Hastings College of the Law
    • John Robertson, JD, The University of Texas School of Law at Austin

The conference is free and open to the public; no registration is required. Questions about the conference can be directed to the CIRGE Program Manager, Jennifer Ladd, at

Background Readings:

September 26, 2008 Conference
Biobanking, Bioethics and the Law

Co-sponsored by the Stanford Journal of Law, Science and Policy and the Stanford Research Compliance Office, this whole day conference will address the ethical, legal and social implications of the practice of biobanking. Biobanking involves the collection and storage of human tissues and DNA for future experimentation. Some questions that will be addressed include:

  • What should be the rights of biobank donors?
  • How does biobanking advance science?
  • What sorts of regulations should apply to biobanks?

Additional materials:

May 9, 2008 Symposium
Capturing Complexity:
the Scientific, Societal, and Ethical Meanings
of "Environment" in Genetics Research

This five-hour symposium was divided into five presentation panels, each followed by a brief discussion; the panels then were summed up in a deliberative discussion to end the event.  Topics covered included considerations in measuring the environment, how to tease out the interplay between genes and environments, and ethical and policy implications of gene-environment research.  Some specific questions contemplated were:

  • What sort of causal relationship exists between genotype, environment and phenotype?
  • How can we develop measurements to probe the influence of the environment in specific, meaningful ways?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the current state of genome-wide association studies, and how can environment be incorporated into these studies?
  • What implications do gene-environment interaction studies hold for policy?

Additional materials:

June 6, 2006 Symposium
Interpreting Complexity:
the Scientific and Social Meaning of Behavioral Genetics

During this six-hour event, thirteen panelists presented on, and engaged in a deliberative discussion about, emerging work in behavioral genetics and its impact on society.  The panelists came from a wide range of fields -- genetics, psychology, anthropology, law and philosophy.  Many questions were considered, including:

  • What level of explanation should be used to talk about behavior, and in which domains?
  • How is behavior conceptualized and studied?
  • What is the dynamic between changing social values and emerging behavioral genetic findings?

Additional materials:

March 30, 2005 Symposium
Genetics, Neurobiology and Addiction: Where are the Answers?

Co-sponsored by the John S. Knight Fellowships Program, this two-hour public symposium featured a three person panel discussing the grand challenges of addiction research and highlighting the emerging ethical implications of rapidly changing social understandings of addictive behaviors.  The panelists addressed such questions as:

  • How might a genetic understanding of dependence change our attitudes and policies toward substance abuse?
  • If certain individuals, or people with shared ancestry, are identified as being more susceptible to addiction, what should be done with that information?
  • What preemptive measures, if any, should be taken to safeguard against the expression of certain negative, potentially damaging behaviors if they are identified in our genetic makeup?
  • What role do journalists play in mediating public knowledge of emerging addiction science? What are the responsibilities of scientists in this dialogue?

Additional materials:

  • Press release in The Stanford Report
  • Feature article in The Stanford Daily